by Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
We have come a long way in recent years when it comes to creating fairness in the workplace and this is something that we should all be applying. In recent years, there has been a drive for equality and diversity for employees and this has resulted in topics such as intercultural communication, unconscious bias, and generational diversity becoming popular training programs to provide for employees. But what about inclusive leadership? What does it mean and why is it so important for your business? And how can we improve practices in the workplace?
What is Inclusive Leadership?
Rather than focusing only on equality and diversity, there is now a realization that we should also make sure that every employee feels that they have a voice, can fully be themselves when working, do not face any unfair obstacles in their work, and has fair access to the same tools and opportunities as their colleagues.
To give a scenario. Imagine in a work meeting, a lady whom we can call Jane, is always quiet and never speaks up in work, and seems somewhat introverted. With an inclusive leadership style, we, as the leader, can look at ways to try and make Jane feel more included and to evaluate if there are needs that we are missing.
For a company, happier staff means greater productivity, better mental health for staff, and a more fun place for all staff to come into each day. So, what are some tips for becoming a more inclusive leader?
1. Develop Your Own Cultural Intelligence
Our workplaces are continually becoming more varied in terms of cultural diversity and this means a much greater range of skills, experiences, and knowledge and it has proven to be a great benefit to many businesses.
As the leader in such a workplace, we can help to naturally become a better leader by pro-actively developing a better understanding of our employees. What cultural backgrounds exist in our workplace and what do we know about these cultures? By making even a small effort to understand some of the customs of different cultures we can greatly improve our understanding of how our colleagues work and think.
There are numerous ways to develop better cultural intelligence, whether it be simply by reading books such as the Cultural Guides series, through organizing team-building events that embrace the diversity of cultures in the workplace.
2. Elicit Feedback About Your Leadership
Although it might at first seem a brave thing to do, you might want to think about trying to elicit feedback about your leadership in one-to-one meetings with your employees or the people you manage. Becoming more open as a leader and inviting feedback can, in the long term, be very rewarding and provide invaluable information in relation to inclusive leadership. Your employees themselves will often provide you with solutions to help you make your workplace more inclusive for each and every employee.
3. Try and Provide Diversity Training
If you can, ensure that everyone is encouraged in your team or company to learn more about equality and diversity issues. Courses such as ‘Unconscious Bias’ and ‘Intercultural communication’ can be instrumental in helping to create a more understanding, compassionate and happier workforce. I have found that most employees tend to embrace the opportunity to learn.
4. Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace
In addition to helping mutual trust and respect in the workplace, psychological safety can help you to bring in this sense of inclusion for all. Psychological safety is achieved when every employee feels comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas with everyone, at any level, without fear of reprisal.
5. Push Creative Thinking
If you are a manager, then try and reflect on the ways in which you encourage creative thinking in your team. Some employees who are often quiet and rarely get involved might simply have different ways of thinking and their ideas can often be very valuable. Likewise, there can be cultural differences between employees and within work teams, and creative thinking and alternative ways of working can really help inclusive work practices.
Dr. Valeria Lo Iacono is the owner of Symonds Training and a published academic. Valeria started her own training materials business after completing a Ph.D. in dance heritage. Valeria now provides training programs such as on Inclusive Leadership and Psychological Safety for employee training. Valeria also loves to belly dance and loves to travel worldwide.